By Amie Gravell
The Conservative party of Canada spent the maximum amount of money that regulations allow to win the May 2 election. Twenty-one million dollars, it seems, is the cost of a majority government. So what has Mr. Harper done with his majority? Well, in the two months since the election, the government has not had a chance to do much, but they certainly haven’t been shy about sharing their plans.
Though the 12 million dollars that the Conservative party got from the government per-vote subsidies helped the party make up more than half the cost of their campaign, the Harper government has pledged to remove the per-vote political subsidy. The reasoning behind this is to make parties accountable for their own finances, which is rather easy when you have a number of wealthy donors. But for parties whose constituents do not have the money to donate to their political party of choice, this change in policy might be disastrous. Harper intends to continue silencing the limited expression of the poor in Canada. Political parties may well find themselves forced to pander to constituents with money rather than the constituents they used to support.
To look at Harper’s platform without becoming sorely confused is an exercise in not asking questions. Harper intends to get tough on crime, expand the prison system, and yes, the Harper government is still harping on mandatory minimum sentencing. However, guns are cool, and the long gun registry is on the chopping block despite pleas from police chiefs to keep it in place.
The Harper Government intends to be friends with other governments, or at least one other government. Harper has pledged to work with the U.S. closely on boarder security. Another thing Canada is helping the U.S. with is the war on drugs. In addition to attempting to push through U.S. inspired mandatory minimum sentences on Canadians, the Harper government has pledged 5 million dollars to fight drug crime in the Americas despite continuing calls for a change in the approach to the war on drugs.
Stephen Harper also intends to help Canadians, or at least Canadian corporations, by lowering corporate taxes. What this does for the average citizen can be argued until the cows come home, but in addition to lowering corporate taxes, Mr. Harper has also pledged to eliminate our national deficit in four years. If asking questions about the Harper government’s platform wasn’t an exercise in confusion, we might ask what kind of resources the average citizen might have in four years.
Harper’s policy on the environment is obviously that the environment doesn’t exist. What problems with the tar sands? Oil leak in Alberta? Stop worrying and drill baby drill. On Apr. 29, one of the largest oil spills in Canadian history occurred after 4.5 million litres of oil spilled from a 44 year old pipe in Northern Alberta. The Harper government seems to have decided, rather than defending its position on the Alberta tar sands, that silence is golden. Stephen Harper, in his platform, has no plan to reduce global emissions, no plan to even attempt to comply with the Kyoto protocol, and no plans to remove subsidies to the tar sands.
The tar sands are Canada’s fastest growing source of pollution, and the Harper Government depends on Canadians not to ask why. In the last year, emissions from the tar sands have increased by 20 percent, and emissions per barrel are not projected to decrease, but instead to increase. The worst projections predict the emissions from Canada’s tar sands to triple by 2020.
The Harper Government has also, as of June 24, blocked the United Nations from adding Asbestos to the list of dangerous goods. Had asbestos been added to the list, Canada would be required to warn countries receiving asbestos that in addition to preventing fires, asbestos also causes cancer. Receiving countries, should they feel they cannot process the material safely, would be then be allowed to refuse shipment. When asked for justification for blocking the motion, Harper said this: “This government will not put Canadian industry in a position where it is discriminated against in a market where it [asbestos] is permitted.”
Of course, Canadian compliance would be required to ban the sale of asbestos, so expect Harper’s black eye for the reputation of Canada on the world stage to simply get blacker. Instead of sewing a Canadian flag onto their packs, Canadian tourists might be more honest to put a splotch of oil and pin a piece of asbestos to our bags. Remember Canadians, Stephen says: it isn’t discrimination to sell a cancer causing substance to third world countries without warning them about what it does, it’s discrimination to be asked to be honest about peddling a dangerous substance.
Part of the Harper Government’s omnibus crime bill (which includes mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes) is aimed at increased internet surveillance. In the omnibus crime bill, there are a number of changes to our internet access laws including changes to information disclosure, surveillance technologies, and police powers. Internet providers would be required to disclose customer names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, IP addresses, and even device identification numbers. Internet providers, under the omnibus crime bill, would be required to change the structure of their networks to allow for interception of communications, isolation of communications to individuals, and multiple simultaneous interceptions. And last but not least, with all the new surveillance data accessible, the omnibus crime bill ensures that police will have access to all of these new tools. The best part of the crime bill is that almost every part of it entails significant cost to the country. Cost which hasn’t been calculated, let alone had money set aside to pay for it.
Remember Canada, you won’t be worried about Mr. Harper’s plans if you don’t ask questions about them. We can pay for prisons, pay for network changes so that our communications on the internet can be easily put under surveillance, and we can pay for corporate tax breaks. We’re also going to eliminate the deficit—just don’t ask how it is going to happen. It’s just better that way.